The cabinet in Berlin will give the green light on Wednesday for an extension of Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan until Jan 31, 2022, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The current parliamentary mandate for the German operation with up to 1,300 troops expires at the end of March while the new US government is reviewing a 2020 agreement with the Taliban which called for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1.
A premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardize peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Kramp-Karrenbauer warned, adding NATO troops needed to prepare for Taliban violence should they stay beyond the end of April.
Last week, the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at end of the two NATO defense ministers meetings in Brussels that the military alliance will only leave Afghanistan when security conditions on the ground allow it.
Stoltenberg said that at this stage, the alliance has not made a final decision about a troop presence in Afghanistan.
“At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence, but, as the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO Allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels.
“We remain committed to our Resolute Support mission, with training and funding for the brave Afghan security forces,” he said.
“Defence Ministers had a thorough discussion on the situation in Afghanistan. We are faced with many dilemmas and there are no easy options,” he said.
Stoltenberg said that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured allies that the US will work together with NATO on Afghanistan.
On reports about the Taliban’s preparation for the spring offensive, the NATO chief says that NATO’s presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based. He said that NATO continues to monitor the situation. He says that a spring offensive will only damage the prospects for peace.
Stoltenberg said that NATO allies will make a final decision based on consultations and assessments that NATO allies make together.
Stoltenberg said that NATO’s goal is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists that would attack “our homelands.”
On February 29 last year, former US President Donald Trump struck a peace agreement with the Taliban under which Washington agreed foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for conditions including cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and opening peace talks with Afghan sides.
But President Joe Biden’s administration has said it would review the deal, with the Pentagon accusing the Taliban of not meeting their commitment to reduce violence as agreed in the Doha deal.
The Taliban in turn has accused the US of breaching the agreement and insisted it will continue its “fight” if foreign troops do not leave Afghanistan by May.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan study group assigned by US Congress called on President Joe Biden’s administration to slow the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, remove the May 1 exit deadline and instead reduce the number of forces only as security conditions improve in the country.